Re-Validation of the I-94 – U.S. Arrival and Departure Record: An Important Consideration for Canadians Travelling to the U.S.
What Is an I-94?
Since moving back to Canada, after having practised U.S. immigration law in the southern part of the U.S. for many years, I have found certain aspects of the practice unique to the northern border, namely the lack of U.S. CBP (“Customs and Border Protection”) stamps in a Canadian citizen’s passport when granted admission to the U.S., typically when travelling by air.
Passports of travelers from just about every other country entering the U.S. are now stamped and annotated with the class of admission (e.g., B1/B2 or TN) and departure date – the date by which the traveler must leave the country. This process replaced the old paper I-94, which is the Arrival and Departure Record issued by U.S. CBP; I-94s are now electronic.
Why Is an I-94 Important for Canadians Who Visit the U.S.?
When there is neither a stamp nor class of admission and departure date written, Canadians run the risk of overstaying their visit. To complicate things, if a Canadian leaves the U.S. for a few days and then returns to resume their U.S. visit, they may think their time in the U.S. is extended by the number of days they were absent from the country; however, that may not be the case.
A brief trip outside the U.S. to a contiguous country following an admission into the country doesn’t necessarily count as days present in the United States for tax or immigration purposes. But that is not to say a CBP officer cannot follow the practice of “re-validating” an existing I-94 at the time of re-admission from a brief trip such that the “admit until” date remains unchanged.
Why Is Re-Validation Dangerous for Canadians?
Re-validation occurs when a traveler enters the U.S., shortly thereafter departs the country to a contiguous country other than Cuba for thirty (30) days or less, and CBP permits the person to be admitted to the U.S. again at a later date under the unexpired validity period of the I-94 granted at the time of the first admission. For example, a Canadian citizen enters the U.S. on January 1 and is given a 6-month period of admission through June 30. When she departs the U.S. in March to Canada and seeks readmission in April, she may only be readmitted until June 30.
In other words, the traveler’s period of admission is not extended by the number of days she was out of the U.S. because CBP did not create a new I-94 with a new period of admission; rather, the existing I-94 was re-validated – a common practice by CBP.
This can be particularly challenging for our Canadian snowbird clients, who typically want to maximize the time they spend stateside and may not be aware of the practice of I-94 re-validation. Unfortunately, overstaying one’s welcome in the U.S. can lead to unexpected tax and immigration consequences.
What Can You Do to Avoid Overstaying in the U.S.?
After each entry to the U.S., use this link to check your I-94 at CBP’s website to avoid overstays. Also, ensure CBP’s information is correct by keeping copies of travel records to confirm your dates of departure and return to the U.S. to prove that you were out of the country between those days.
If you find inaccurate information on your I-94, contact a reputable immigration lawyer to determine whether it can be corrected. For more information about I-94s, see CBP’s website by following this link.
THIS ARTICLE IS SOLELY FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES. IT SHALL NEITHER BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE NOR DOES IT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. CONSULT WITH A LICENSED AND KNOWLEDGEABLE U.S. IMMIGRATION LAWYER FOR LEGAL ADVICE,